Customer Review

183 of 202 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Full Nerdy Review: Performance a bit iffy at times, overall quite an amazing and well built product., 5 Feb. 2013
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This review is from: Samsung Chromebook XE303C12-A01UK 11.6-inch Laptop (2GB RAM, 16GB HDD) (Personal Computers)
After getting a Nexus 7, I decided that it wasn't for me because it was too small for a good browsing experience and wasn't any use for productivity. So after selling my Nexus 7, I decided to save up a bit more and get this Chromebook as a second computer that I could take to college for work. I knew the limitations of Chrome OS before I bought this, I spend 90-95% of my time on Chrome on my PC anyways so I thought this would be perfect.

I'll start with the performance and the technical specs
This comes with a Exynos 5250 ARM A15 CPU clocked at 1.7Ghz Dual Core, 2GB RAM, 16GB SSD and 11.6" LCD 1366x768 screen. I thought my Nexus 7 was pretty speedy at browsing with a A9 1.3GHz Quad Core so this A15 which is twice as fast clock for clock must be faster than my Nexus 7? Well not really, because its running desktop sites and my Nexus 7 had limitations such as not being able to play Youtube whilst browsing in another tab. Personally I like using Youtube as my music player and browsing in other tabs, the problem is whilst this is fine for most sites, on some heavier sites such as Engadget or BBC the music stutters for a second or two. Didn't really expect that seeing this is a A15 1.7GHz Dual core, but hey its a fanless laptop and running full desktop sites, so I let that one off. Also it seems to be a bit slow at loading pages at times, even compared to my Old Dell Studio 15 with a T4200 2GHz Dual core, but hey my Dell has a 2 hour battery life. There isn't much checkerboarding, 2GB RAM is plenty for browsing. Now what really is amazing is how fast this SSD is, I can reboot in less than 15 seconds and wake from sleep faster than unlocking a tablet. Just what I expected but its amazing to experience it. However I ran into wifi dropping issues with my wireless network at home, it seems to have problems with getting an IP address from my router just like my Nexus 7 and brothers iPad did, whilst working fine on other networks. It was quite annoying having to go into the hidden settings and enable the Static IP feature which is apparently still experimental. However once I had assigned a Static IP, my Wifi became as stable as a rock. They shouldn't have hidden that setting really, its quite essential. For future reference incase anyone else runs into a similar problem, you can find the Static IP option on the Chrome://flags page.

Now Battery life and Build Quality
Battery life definitely doesn't last 6.5 hours at my usage. As I said I like having Youtube and a few tabs up. Also I prefer using the screen at full brightness. At 100% charge, it flucturates between 4 hours to 4 hours 45 minutes for me. Which isn't too bad, considering its only a 2 cell battery and can be extended if you turn the brightness down to half. My Dell has a 9 cell battery and doesn't last this long! The screen itself isn't bright anyways at 200nits maximum brightness but for £229 its not bad. 1366x768 resolution for a 11.6" screen is very sharp in my opinion, not Retina display sharp but easily good enough. My 19" PC monitor only uses 1366x768. You don't need Retina display resolution for browsing anyways. However the colours are a bit washed out compared to my monitor whilst both of them are matte displays. But as I said for £229 it will suffice. The Keyboard as most reviewers have said, its very good. However to me it doesn't seem to go as far down as I'd like. The key travel is very shallow, but its still definitely the best laptop keyboard I've used. The size is great, I'm typing this whole review on the chromebook! The Chromebook is THIN! Like literally thin, I could easily carry this in my bag and wouldn't notice that its there as it weighs less than 1.2KG. This is truly a portable device. Some say they copied the Macbook Air but I disagree, most smartphones look similar so its not really a valid argument. Yes its plastic but what do you expect for £229? It definitely feels like it costs more, the thin unibody design and island keys is just a pleasure to look at. The touchpad is a good size for a 11.6" Laptop and the 2 finger scroll works pretty well, however it still needs a bit more gestures such as pinch to zoom. The speakers are quite loud in my opinion, maybe its because its fanless! But the problem is that its located on the front bottom corner which muffles the sound when being used on your lap. Sound quality is pretty good too in my opinion, especially with headphones, there's no background noises at all.

Now ChromeOS
This is my first experience with Chrome OS, so far so good I'd say. Better than I thought it would be. The File manager allows copying and pasting, so you can transfer some files. The Music player is very basic, it plays my MP3's but theres no repeat, shuffle features. However you can sort of make a playlist by putting them in differently folders. It plays the next song in the folder when your song finishes which is a good feature. 1080p MP4 videos play fine which was a surprise, the GPU is quite powerful I heard so I'm guessing theres some sort of Hardware Acceleration. Youtube plays 720P videos fine, 1080P videos also plays fine but isn't as smooth. I love how they replaced the Function keys for actual useful keys like back, forward, brightness and sound control, rather than having to hold a FN key to access them. Now the make or break feature for me was the Multi language keyboard input, I needed to be able to type in Chinese and well done to Google, they have included many languages that you can quickly change format by pressing alt-shift. Thats something my Nexus 7 lacked, there was too many taps and swipes to change keyboard. Now onto Apps for this laptop, don't expect Google Play or Apple App store quantity of apps, because there's not. Also most of them are web apps that rely on internet access to work, however there are quite a few offline apps such the Google Docs, Angry Birds and few other games. Google Docs is the equivalent of Microsoft Office for the Chromebook, it can save as .docx format or .pdf, theres a spreadsheet and powerpoint equivalent so its all good. A bit basic but its free and gets the job done, if you want you could fire up the office web app from Sky Drive.

Summary
Would I buy it again? Short Answer: Yes. But after using this, I feel that I could've used the extra power on the Chromebook 550 and the 0.5"" bigger screen size and a bit longer battery. But that one is £100 more expensive, weights half a pound more and is a bit thicker. I'm more than happy with this purchase, its a great on the move device. Even though it can be a bit limited with no internet, some of the offline apps were great and I can load a few movies on my 32GB SD card that I purchased for this device. Overall 4.5/5 Stars if its possible to lose half a star, because I still think the performance could've been better and the battery life claim is a bit iffy for me. My brothers iPad 4 has a much bright screen and lasts about 8 hours, this could do better for sure. Hope Google could improve performance with future updates. Overall its £229 well spent, good for those who prefer the desktop experience with a keyboard and don't like tablets. Its more of a "productivity" device. Not so good for anyone who expects to play games and "consume" content as that's a more suited use for tablets. I would recommend you to get one if you're in need of a second computer, but also look into the Samsung Chromebook 550 if you have the money.

I'll be happy to answer any questions and hope this review has been helpful,
Anthony.

Update 23/11/2013:
Almost a year in, I must say after soo many updates Google has been top in optimising the Chromebook. The scrolling seems to be much better and there are far less stuttering with Youtube background playback in tabs. However the loading times are still the same. Couldn't really compare to an iPad Air in terms of speed but the desktop browsing experience on this Chromebook is just much better than touchscreen browsing. The new three finger gestures are amazing and I've adapted completely to them. You can middle click to open in new tab or close tabs using three fingers, and swipe between tabs with three fingers. Makes the Chromebook a joy to use and puts Windows laptops to shame that doesn't offer such gestures. Still no pinch to zoom though. :( Netflix is now working and seems to able to steam the content in HD without an issue.

You might ask, do I have anything to say about the new generation Chromebook? Well first of all the HP Chromebook 11 (currently unavailable) has a better screen and build quality than this Chromebook. However it still uses the same CPU chip and RAM, doesn't have the HDMI Port or a SD card slot and is almost £50 extra. I don't know if I could justify that, however if it was the same price or just a £20 difference, I'd say go for the HP if you can live without the HDMI Port/SD Slot. The new Acer C720 looks good, but a big problem to me about that is that it seems more bulky, weights more, worse build quality and feels like they've just reused a netbook design which isn't great. Also it has a fan! Fanless design in the Samsung and HP Chromebook 11 rocks! However the Intel Chip in the Acer is miles, MILES faster than the HP and the Samsungs, and also offers 2-3 hours more battery life. So if you're willing to trade build quality and looks for performance and battery life, then go for the Acer. You couldn't go wrong with any of these devices really. The HP Chromebook 14 looks solid if you want a bigger device but I don't think theres much news on whether its coming to the UK.

My previous conclusion about the Samsung Chromebook 550 still holds true if you can find it for cheap (Under £250). I would've loved to own one of those, but £300 seems too much considering this is only £180 now. Also the Acer C720 outperforms it with a better battery life, however Acer build quality is so so. I'd still keep the 4.5/5 rating simply because this could do with a better screen and if HP can do it for the same price, Samsung could. Also it needs a SoC update as the Exynos 5250 on this is aging, even the Nexus 4 and Nexus 7 2013 has better specs that this for almost the same price. Surely they could put a Snapdragon 800 or similar in without increasing the costs.

In conclusion, I can still say this Chromebook is a solid buy especially being £180 now. If you want trouble-free browsing, you can't go wrong with one of these. They take literally 10 minutes to set up from new and require zero maintenance. However I'd love Samsung to keep this design, put in a Snapdragon 805 chip as the performance could do with a boost, an IPS screen like the HP Chromebook 11, Micro USB Charging maybe? and perhaps a bigger battery. But is that too much to ask for? We can only sit back and watch.

Anthony
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Comments

Tracked by 3 customers

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Showing 1-10 of 14 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 25 Mar 2013 12:09:30 GMT
Hi I bought this for my daughter, do you know if it is compatable with any type of internet dongle or Mifi device. She does not have home internet so it is currently a pointless gift but she loves it and I would like to see if we can get some sort of internet access set up. Thanks for your help! Carol

Posted on 13 Apr 2013 20:29:06 BDT
Kindy says:
Can some one tell me if I have to be connected to internet at all times to use?

In reply to an earlier post on 24 Aug 2013 12:45:34 BDT
Anthony Lau says:
Sorry for the late reply, it might not be useful now but I didn't see any notification for your message. Mifi would work for this device perfectly. Other USB Internet dongles will not work at all.

Anthony

In reply to an earlier post on 24 Aug 2013 12:48:01 BDT
Anthony Lau says:
Sorry for the late reply. You don't need internet for chrome apps that are installed and basic file management. For example, you can play MP3 and MP4 files on your hard drive or USB pendrive without the internet. Also installed games such as Angry birds will work without the internet, so would Google Docs where you can edit documents and powerpoints etc. But for its main purpose of browsing the web (using Chrome) it would be almost useless without an internet connection.

Anthony

Posted on 12 Sep 2013 13:47:39 BDT
Dawn says:
Anthony would this be able to stream live video? Or would it jump and stutter like you said youtube did?

In reply to an earlier post on 12 Sep 2013 14:46:14 BDT
Anthony Lau says:
It would depend on what you are streaming. Standard definition on BBC iPlayer, 4oD, ITV Player should be fine, but it might struggle with HD if its not optimized for the Chromebook. Youtube is mostly fine if you avoid 1080p playback or don't have other heavy pages in the background.

In reply to an earlier post on 12 Sep 2013 16:21:22 BDT
Dawn says:
Live sports feeds? But thanks, very prompt answer!

In reply to an earlier post on 12 Sep 2013 20:46:34 BDT
Anthony Lau says:
You shouldn't have any problems with any Standard Definition streams or with most HD streams that aren't too high of a bit rate (e.g below 1080p). However if the site is full of flash adverts and pop ups it would slow down and become a bit choppy. The free Adblock extension from the Chrome app store usually solves this. No problem, happy to help. Feel free to ask any more questions.

Posted on 18 Sep 2013 17:21:25 BDT
Joules says:
does this chromebook have ethernet option? i have to run even my laptop on ethernet cable as the wifi is so intermittent.

In reply to an earlier post on 19 Sep 2013 01:36:37 BDT
Anthony Lau says:
It doesn't come with it built in ethernet, however you can get a USB adapter. Just search for "Plugable USB 2.0 to 10/100/1000 Gigabit Ethernet" on Amazon and I believe it compatible with any chromebooks.
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Location: Manchester, UK

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